Uptegrove, AUN, June 1994
Donald has been driving an eighteen wheeler as a full-time occupation for nearly a quarter of a century. In the course of that career he has traveled literally millions of miles and has passed through every one of the continental United States at least once. Like many professional truck drivers he prefers to be on the road during the hours of darkness, when traffic on the highways is at its lightest. As a result there have been several occasions when Donald has seen something in the night sky which he was temporarily unable to identify. In each case he would eventually recognize the source as something familiar; a meteor, aircraft, or particularly bright star.
That situation was changed forever during the early morning hours of May 18, 1994. The mysterious lighted object which he and at least three other witnesses observed maneuvering over a major traffic artery that clear spring morning has successfully defied every attempt so far to explain or identify it in conventional terms.
"You know what is really funny about this whole deal?" Donald asked AUN's chief investigator during a telephone interview on June 10th Without waiting for an answer he continued. "Here I've been all over this country driving at night and when I finally do get a good look at one of those damned things I wasn't much more than twenty-five miles away from the house, and on the Interstate to boot. 1 always figured that if it was going to happen it would probably be out in the middle of nowhere. That just goes to show you that you never know what's going to happen next."
The veteran truck driver had experienced a rare luxury on the night of May 17th; he went to sleep in his own bed at home, even though he was in the middle of a cross-country run. He was hauling a full load of brand new furniture from a warehouse on the eastern seaboard to a major retail outlet in western Oklahoma and was scheduled to make the delivery there on the afternoon of the next day. Since his scheduled route took him only a few miles from his house within an hour or so of when he was scheduled to shut his rig down for the night anyway, he decided to take advantage of the opportunity to spend an extra night at home.
Donald was back on the road well before daylight on the morning of the 18th and by approximately 4:45 AM he was westbound on Interstate 44 near the 34 mile marker in Southwest Missouri. (These markers are placed every mile along the Interstate and begin with zero at the Oklahoma border and are numbered consecutively as you cross the state toward St. Louis. His mention of the 34 mile marker would place his location in the western edge of Lawrence County, just about four mile west of the exit for Missouri Route 97.) It was at this point that he first became aware of something unusual going on among the otherwise idle chatter on the citizen's band radio.
"There were a couple of other trucks running together about a mile or so ahead of me and the driver's were yakking back and forth on the CB," Donald explained. "They weren't really talking about anything in particular, just passing the time mostly, and to tell you the truth I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to them after a while. Then one of them said something on the y order of, 'What the hell is that thing, an airplane? and he sounded pretty excited, so that got my attention. I guess the other one hadn't spotted it yet because he came back and asked where it was and what he was talking about. The first one got real shook up and said, 'Over there to the left, right over that field! Can't you see that thing? Then nobody said anything for a couple of seconds and the second driver got back on the radio and said, 'Yeah, I see it now, but just don't ask me what the hell it is'. Then another driver cut in and said, 'What are you guys talking about?' But neither one of them would answer him. Both of them just clammed up and didn't say anything else."
Donald knew that whatever had caused all the commotion had to be within a mile or so ahead of him but he had just started up a relatively large hill when the conversation started and for the next several seconds he had to settle for speculating about what the two drivers had been talking about. Although his curiosity was satisfied immediately when he reached the crest, the sight which greeted him was not anything at all like what he had expected. "I just popped up over the hill and there it was, big as life," the fifty-three year old witness continued. "I had already figured out that they thought they were seeing a flying saucer or something but I figured it vas just going to be some funny-looking lights in the sky or something like that, but it sure wasn't. This was the real thing."
The described appearance of the UFO would certainly seem to be ample justification for making such a comment. Despite having some obvious difficulty in finding the right words at times, he managed to convey an image of an object which was impossible to dismiss as simply an aircraft or meteor observed under unusual circumstances.
"It was shaped just like a great big cigar that the ends haven't been clipped off of yet," he began. "You know, it came to a sort of rounded point on both ends. But it really didn't look like it was anything solid, it looked more like it was made out of some kind of glowing fog" When asked why he had chosen such an unusual phrase to compare the object to, Donald replied that it was primarily due to the appearance of its outline. He stated that they were not very sharply defined but rather somewhat "faded out and maybe even kind of fuzzy-looking". He added the comment that, "If it hadn't been for the lights on it I would have just passed the whole thing off as being a funny-looking cloud that had gotten low enough to be lit up by the lights on the ground."
This mention by the witness of the object 's similarity to a low cloud provided an opportunity to explore that very possibility a bit further. The answers which Donald gave in response to a few direct questions from the investigator provided more than sufficient grounds for dismissing this explanation as being completely unacceptable. The shape of the object, for example, remained the same throughout the entire incident, including when the UFO was in motion. (The maneuvers it performed will be described in detail later in this article) A cloud, on the other hand, will only move when propelled by the wind. In the process it will invariably be broken apart, become somewhat more elongated, or undergo some type of change in its configuration.
The luminous quality of the object was also quite different fom that which would be expected of a low cloud being lit by the lights on the ground below. Such conditions produce an appearance of something glowing brightest on the underside and gradually becoming darker toward the upper portions. Donald clearly described a luminosity which was apparently equal over the entire surface of UFO. In addition, the intensity did not vary noticeably as the object moved, an effect which would certainly be visible if it was simply reflecting light from whatever sources it happened to pass over.
If any question remained of the UFO possibly being a cloud, they were settled by one simple fact; clouds do not carry lights, and this thing was equipped with at least a dozen of them. "It had blue and red lights on it," Donald told AUN. "There were five blue ones along the top and five more at the bottom and a red one at each end." When asked to give a more precise description of the colors, he said the blue ones were "actually a whole lot closer to being a purplish-blue color than it was to anything else, and they were pretty dark, too." He had much less difficulty in finding the proper words to describe the lights which were located at either end of the object. "They were just plain old red- like the red lights on an airpalne," he said.
The lights were arranged in a simple, balanced pattern, at least on the side of the object which was turned toward the witness. Just below the upper edge was a row of five of the "purplish-blue" lights, all identical and evenly spaced along the length of the line. The row of lights was straight and did not match the gentle curve of the UFO's upper edge. A second line ran parallel to this one at approximately the same distance in from the bottom edge as the first was from the top. The two red lights, one at each end, were located right at the very tips of the "rounded points" at the front and back. They appeared to be just slightly larger than the others, although their brightness was said to be about the same. All twelve of the lights remained steady and maintained the same intensity throughout the entire duration of the sighting. Donald also noted that aside from the somewhat unusual color displayed by those in the two parallel rows, "They just looked like ordinary lights."
When Donald drove his truck over the crest of the hill and got his first glimpse of this strange object it appeared to be hovering absolutely motionless above a large pasture at a point approximately two to three hundred yards south of the opposite (eastbound) lanes of the Interstate and approximately half a mile ahead of him. He estimated its height above the ground to have been "somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple of hundred feet" and it appeared to be parallel with the ground below. "Just as soon as I spotted it I started slowing down," the veteran truck driver continued. He added that the traffic on that rural stretch of highway was extremely light at such an early hour of the morning and there was not even one other vehicle's headlights to be seen behind him when he looked in his rearview mirror. "There was this one little car that was down the road ahead of me and from the way that he kept flashing his brake lights and acting like he was going to pull over I figured that he had spotted it, too. I think maybe it was the same little car that had passed me when I was coming up the hill, because I didn't see any other tail lights for guite a ways.
"Anyway, by the time we had gotten up to where we were just a quarter of a mile or so from being even with it I had almost caught up to him and we had both slowed down to where we were just barely crawling. I could see it real good by rolling my window down and the closer I got to it the stranger it looked. I guess we got up to about an eighth of a mile from it and both of us got the same idea at the same time. I started to pull off on the side of the highway and stop and when I looked up the little car was already off on the shoulder. 1 stopped about a hundred feet or so behind him. He got out of his car but I figured I could see just as good from where I was at so I stayed put in the cab of my truck. That put me up higher, you know.
"Just as soon as we got stopped and the other driver got out of his car the thing started moving. The only thing I can figure is that they didn't like having an audience to whatever they were up to out there."
In spite of Donald's comment concerning the UFO possibly having an aversion to being observed, the object did not move away from the witnesses. Instead it flew straight to the north, directly toward the Interstate, maintaining the same approximate altitude as it did so. "It flew over the highway no more than a couple of hundred yards or so in front of me and maybe a couple of hundred feet up in the air. I got a real good look at it by hanging out of the window. It wasn't doing more than fifty or maybe sixty miles an hour when it went across. If it would have been another truck I could have told you what kind it was, that's how plain I saw it.
"It just kept on going like that, maybe picking up just a little more speed, until it got about a quarter of a mile out to the north of us. By that time I was looking at it from enough of an angle so that I couldn't see the red light on the front of it any more and the purplish ones were looking kind of sguashed together, but I could still see it plenty good enough to keep track of where it was going and what it was doing. Then all of a sudden it just disappeared;" He paused for a moment to snap his fingers next to the telephone mouthpiece for emphasis. "Just like that, like it never had really been there at all. The white glow, the lights, everything was just gone."
Following this mysterious vanishing act, Donald noticed that the driver of the small car which had stopped in front of him had gotten out of his vehicle and was walking back toward his truck along the shoulder of the highway. Donald then crawled down out of the cab and started walking up to meet him. The other man constantly stopped and looked in the direction where the UFO was last seen, and just before the two men reached each other he suddenly stopped and began pointing excitedly toward the north, almost screaming "There it is! Look at it!" Donald immediately looked in the direction he was indicating but was obviously not very impressed with what he saw.
''I didn't even see anything at first, because I was looking out toward where the thing had disappeared. Then I realized that he was pointing at something a lot higher, more up in the sky. I looked but all I could see was just a red light way off in the north, going west. I guess maybe it could have been one of the red lights on the thing we saw but I'm a whole lot more inclined to think it was just a light on an airplane. There was no convincing the other guy, though. The single red light did nothing to jeopardize Donald's belief that it was an aircraft, simply flying steadily toward the west until it went out of sight. "We stood there and talked a few more minutes about what we had seen, and then I said something about exchanging names and phone numbers. He asked me why and I said so that if either one of us reported it we could say who else had seen it. That ended the conversation in a hurry." Donald added that the other witness was a well-dressed young man in his mid twenties and the license on his car was from Missouri, but his identity remains unknown.
One detail of the object's description remained to be clarified; its size. As it passed over the Interstate in front of his truck it had been turned broadside to Donald at a distance of only about two hundred yards, a situation which allowed him to provide an estimate of its dimensions with a fair degree of confidence in its accuracy. "It was at least sixty and maybe as much as seventy-five feet long," he told the investigator. "The main reason that 1 say that is because it looked like it was just a little bit longer than the distance all the way across both westbound lanes, including the shoulders." His estimate of what he referred to as the object's "thickness" (which would probably be more properly called its diameter, since the UFO was said to be cylindrical) was eight to ten feet.
The duration of the entire sighting, measured from the time Donald first came over the hill and spotted the object until it .abruptly disappeared after crossing the highway, was estimated at two and a half to three minutes. (The CB radio traffic he overheard would indicate that the first two witnesses saw it a minute or so earlier.) The witness did not get out of his truck or shut off its engine at any time during this period, making the fact that he heard no sound coming from the UFO virtually meaningless. "It would have had to make as much noise as a 747 for me to hear it over the truck," he commented with a slight chuckle. He also responded to another question by saying that he noticed no unusual static or other signs of interference coming across his CB radio, which was the only one he had on at the time.
While conducting the lengthy interview with Donald, it became apparent immediately that he was a highly credible individual who had observed something he could not explain. He described the events and answered questions in a simple, straightforward manner without any indication that he was allowing either speculation or an overactive imagination to affect his testimony in the least. The investimony came away from the telephone conversation firmly convinced that the witness has reported an unusual experience precisely as he perceived it to have happened.
Just exactly what it was that Donald saw remains a mystery. The reasons for dismissing a cloud illuminated by lights on the ground have already been discussed earlier in the article. The possibility that the UFO was an aircraft also received consideration but the glowing white body, distinctive color and pattern of the lights and sudden disappearance are sufficent grounds for discarding that theory as well.
One other possible explanation seemed to hold real promise at first glance. The cigar shape was highly suggestive of some type of blimp, and the two parallel lines of lights on the object's side sounded suspiciously like the border on one of the "flying billboards" which these craft sometimes display advertising messages upon. In addition, the hovering and relatively slow flight across the Interstate would be considered characteristic maneuvers for an airship. Blimps however do not simply disappear. One final check provided the final proof that this theory was not a satisfactory explanation for the incident; lighted advertising blimps are a rare sight in southwestern Missouri skies and their movements are easy to trace. Routine inquiries revealed that there were no such craft anywhere in the vicinity on the morning of May 18th, 1994.
It was apparent throughout the course of interview that Donald had found one particular aspect of what he had observed to be especially significant. "The white part looked fuzzy like a cloud, but it just about had to be something solid," he said at one point in the conversation. "I mean, you can't put lights on a cloud." The witness also stated that he had considered the possibility of a physical craft surrounded by a layer of vapor, but was forced to discard that idea as inconsistent with what he saw. "Even just a coating of cloud would have started breaking up and drifting off behind it when it was moving", Donald explained to the investigator. "Besides, it was so white that if the lights were under even a thin cloud there wduld have been a colored glow around them, but there wasn't, so they had to be on the outside. Unless there's such a thig as a solid cloud, I don't have any idea what it was."
While analyzing the details of the UFO's description which had been cleaned from Donald's testimony, one possible explanation for the unusual cloud-like quality came to mind. It was noted that the witness had seemed to base his comments strictly upon the edges of the cylinder looking "fuzzy" instead of being sharp and distinct. If an object is bright enough its own luminosity will create an "aura" around it which follows the general shape but softens and blurs the outline. (This same effect can be observed when looking at a bare light bulb.) While not conclusive, this situation could very well provide an explanation for the "fuzzy" edges on Donald's UFO
(Amateur UFOlogy News, June 1994)